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photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM BOOK:The Cognitive Semiotics of Film By Warren Buckland

The Cognitive Semiotics of Film
By Warren Buckland

Again only a few pages, but enough to get an idea of what cognitive semiotics is and how it is placed between semiotic and cognitive film theory.

A summary elsewhere {1}:

In The Cognitive Semiotics of Film, Warren Buckland argues that the conflict between cognitive film theory and contemporary film theory is unproductive. Examining and developing the work of ‘cognitive film semiotics’, a neglected branch of film theory that combines the insights of cognitive science with those of linguistics and semiotics, he investigates Michel Colin’s cognitive semantic theory of film; Francesco Casetti and Christian Metz’s theories of film enunciation; Roger Odin’s cognitive-pragmatic film theory; and Michel Colin and Dominique Chateau’s cognitive studies of film syntax, which are viewed within the framework of Noam Chomsky’s transformational generative grammar. Presenting a survey of cognitive film semiotics, this study also re-evaluates the film semiotics of the 1960s, highlights the weaknesses of American cognitive film theory, and challenges the move toward ‘post-theory’ in film studies.

• This book advances to the next stage of cognitive film theory • It is a survey of neglected European film theorists who combine semiotics with cognitive science • An investigation into how Christian Metz’s pioneering film semiotics has reached maturation by assimilating concepts from cognitive science, pragmatics and Chomskyan linguistics

Preface and acknowledgements; 1. The cognitive turn in film theory; 2. The body on screen and in frame: film and cognitive semantics; 3. Not what is seen through the window but the window itself: reflexivity, enunciation and film; 4. The institutional context: a semio-pragmatic approach to fiction and documentary film; 5. All in the mind? The cognitive status of film grammar; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography of works cited; Index.


If you’re starting at the beginning like me, How to Read Film by James Monaco covers film theory sufficiently to then get back to watching and making film. Though it is inevitable, as realisations and problems arise in praxis, one will turn to books to confirm what one is discovering or clarify the puzzles and conundrums of making and viewing film, it is important to know (which you may not…) as Mononaco says:

…film theory and criticism, two related but not identical activities that have as their common end an increased understanding of the phenomenon of film. In general, theory is the abstraction; criticism is the practice. At the lowest end of the scale, we find the kind of criticism a reviewer practices: more reportage than analysis. The reviewer’s function is to describe the film and evaluate it, two relatively simple tasks. At the upper end of the scale is the the kind of film theory that has little or nothing to do with the actual practiceof film: an intellectual activity that exists primarily for its own sake, and often has its own rewards, but doesn’t necessarily have much relation to the real world. Between these two extremes there is much room for useful and interesting work.


if you like me, had a science eduction, you might assume theory, as in film, would mean the same as, say, theory, as in evolution, which has some explanatory and predictive power. It is another story, but we are here in the realm of [wiki:]pseudo-science {2} {3] and Karl Popper’s falsifiability.

January 10, 2009 - Posted by | film analysis, film directors, film editing, film theory, film [its techniques]

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